Charity Seal Program FAQs


Q. Why did the BBB Wise Giving Alliance decide to develop a seal program?

A. The goal of the Alliance seal program is to offer a highly visible accountability tool that will help inform donors, will assist charities in establishing their commitment to ethical practices, and will encourage greater confidence in giving. Many, if not most Americans, have trouble finding the information they need to evaluate charities and make decisions about giving. A detailed donor expectations survey of 2,003 Americans commissioned by the Alliance in the spring of 2001 found that 70% of adult Americans said it was difficult to tell whether a charity soliciting their contribution is legitimate. Public attention on charity accountability has grown in recent years, particularly in the wake of a series of high profile charity scandals. In turn, charities themselves are seeking credible means to ensure donors that they operate ethically and in accordance with donor intentions. Moreover, there have been numerous requests from charities over the years to be able to advise donors that they meet our standards.

Q. Is it true that at one time national charities couldn’t use the BBB name?

A. That's correct. Prior to the fall of 2003, national charities that met BBB Wise Giving Alliance charity standards were not permitted to state this fact in their materials or use the BBB name, due to long-standing policy precluding use of the BBB name by outside organizations. For reasons cited above, the Boards of the Alliance and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (which owns the BBB name) approved a policy change that enables the Alliance to distribute a seal for national charities. The seal is offered as a voluntary option for those national organizations that the Alliance has determined meet the BBB charity standards. Similarly, many local BBBs offer the charity seal option to regionally soliciting charities that are found to meet the BBB charity standards.

Q. How will a seal assist donors?

A. The seal provides a clear, concise and accessible means for potential donors to find out if a national charity meets the comprehensive standards established by the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. Charities that qualify for the seal will be able to display the seal in printed solicitation materials, in advertisements, on their web sites and in other approved venues. Furthermore, the seal will help to extend public awareness of the Alliance's work in charity accountability.

Q. How will a seal assist charities?

A. The seal provides charities with a widely recognized (surveys have shown that the overwelming majority of the public is familiar with the BBB) and meaningful mechanism by which to demonstrate their commitment to accountability and ethical practices. Display of the seal instantly conveys to the donor the charity's adherence to strong and comprehensive standards.

Q. How will the seal program be funded?

A. Qualified national charities that apply for participation in the seal program will pay an annual fee. The fee schedule is a sliding scale based on the total amount of the charity's contribution revenues in the past year. The fee schedule ranges from a $1,000 for a charity with $1 million of contributions revenue to $15,000 for organizations with more than $100 million of contributions revenue. Local BBBs that offer the BBB charity seal to regional charities that meet BBB charity standards have a significantly lower fee range than the national charity fees noted above.

Q. Which charities are eligible to display the seal?

A. Publicly soliciting national charities that are at least two years old and meet all of the applicable Standards for Charity Accountability are eligible to apply for the seal. In general, the Alliance reports on those national charities that have been subject of recent public inquiries. However, if a national charity has not yet been evaluated and is interested in applying for the seal program, the Alliance will, at the charity’s request, complete the requisite evaluation in relation to standards.

Q. How does the BBB charity seal differ from other charity watchdog seals?

A.The Alliance looks beyond “the numbers” while other charity evaluators have a grade or rating impacted by charity financial ratios on program and fund raising expenses. In contrast, the Alliance is a standards-based charity monitoring organization that takes into account a variety of issues such as board oversight, appeal accuracy, annual report availability, responsiveness to donor complaints brought to their attention by the Alliance, as well as how it spends its money.

Q. How are charities be permitted to use the seal?

A. Permissible uses of the seal will include the charity's direct mail appeals, annual report, posters, newspaper and magazine advertisements, billboards, web sites and television public service announcements. The web site seal will feature a "click to check" function that provides a direct hyperlink to the BBB Wise Giving Alliance report on the organization.

Q. Will the Alliance continue to report on national charities that do not apply for the seal and/or do not meet standards?

A. Yes, the Alliance will continue to produce reports on those national charities that are the subject of recent inquiries regardless of whether the subject charity intends to apply for the seal. Reports on both those national charities that meet and those organizations that do not meet standards are freely accessible on the website and distributed to BBBs nationwide. Currently, 48% of the national charity reviews completed by the Alliance result in evaluations that show the organization does not meet one or more of the standards.

Q. How will the Alliance monitor the seal and address seal abuses?

A. As with all charity reviews completed by the Alliance, participating national charities will be required to submit a variety of support documents and related information in order for the Alliance to complete an evaluation in relation to standards including: audited financial statements, IRS Form 990, bylaws, articles of incorporation, direct mail appeals, brochures, budgets, board rosters, and tax exempt status determination letters.

Charity evaluations are in effect for 24 months. However, they could be amended at any time based on new information or a change in charity practice. The Alliance staff will routinely monitor seal holder organizations for adherence to seal program requirements. In addition, the Alliance will also conduct Internet monitoring for unauthorized use of the seal online. Further, the Alliance will promptly investigate and act on any donor and/or charity complaints related to seal usage.

If a national charity participating in the seal program is found to no longer meet the standards, the subject organization would be required to remove the seal from their website and to cease distribution of any printed materials that displayed the seal logo.

May 2013